Wednesday, February 17, 2016
Sonny had five fingers, but he only used 'tree'
We are watching A Bronx Tale as a sort of case study for our first unit. Watch it here on mediacast (if that link does not work, try this one.) A Bronx Tale is based on a true story. Chazz Palmenteri (who plays Sonny) witnessed a murder growing up in an Italian neighborhood in NY. He wrote a one man play about it in 1989. A few years later it was made into a movie and Robert DeNiro directed it. When I first heard Palmenteri talk about the real life events, I couldn't believe it. If you get the chance, listen to this interview with Palmenteri about the story. Click listen now for the full story.
Also, in the spring of 2009, Palimenteri performed the story as a one-man play in Chicago. I got to see it live!
If you need reminders from the movie, click here for a list of important quotes from the movie.
There's a few ways that I like to think about the movie. One is the theme of love throughout the movie. I think the movie is really about love, especially the love of a father for his son. But it is also about love versus fear/violence. Sonny told C that "Fear lasts longer than love," but at the end of the movie, no one fears Sonny any more, but his C still loves him and still feels loved by him. Also, Carmine stops by and so does C's dad both to show that they care about Sonny and they still love him. Love transcends death, but fear does not. Fear on the other hand, leads to violence and violence begets more violence. We see this throughout the movie as violence starts small (throwing a stick at the bus) but then it grows and gets out of control (firebombing at the end, and even Sonny's fate). I also think the idea of art imitates life imitates art imitates life... is interesting. This movie was based on real life events of Chazz Palimentieri and then the movie influences real life when it thrusts Lillo Brancato into stardom and seals his fate.
Sometimes they say "art imitates life imitates art..." Here is a link to a 20/20 interview about how Lillo Brancato became the wasted talent that his friends were in the movie.
The racism throughout the film is obvious. What is often taken for granted is where the racism comes from. What are the micro and macro sociological forces that create this racism? Think in terms of the Abandon Ship exercise. How did micro and macro forces come together to influence who was saved and who was tossed? Apply this to the racism in the movie. Can you see any micro or macro sociological forces in your own life?
What are all the groups that Calogero belongs to? (Think in terms of the circles exercise we did in class.) Would you put him in Sonny’s crew, or would you put him and Sonny in their own group? What is Calogero’s Master Status? Why do you think so? Do you think his master status changes throughout the movie? What is your own master status? Has it changed throughout your life like it has for Calogero? You might even discuss the characters in terms of their ingroups/outgroups.
Social Construction of Reality
How is their reality in the neighborhood socially constructed? What are the unwritten rules that govern how you can or can’t act? How do you think this construction came about? Can you see their racist attitudes as a social construction? What are some socially constructed ideas that you believe?
Use your imagination to think about the dynamics and social forces that created Calogero’s “world”. How did the neighborhood come to exist? How did the different groups within the neighborhood come together there? Clue: the movie doesn’t show this, you have to think about what the movie doesn’t show. Another way to put it is how are Calogero’s personal troubles (his biography) part of the bigger picture (his history and society)? How is this similar or different than the groups that have shaped your life?
Who is sociologically mindful in the movie? How is this character sociologically mindful and how does this sociological mindfulness affect him? Do you think it makes a difference in his life? How might sociological mindfulness make a difference in your own life?